Federal Legislation
November 8, 2007

H.R. 3685—Employment Non-Discrimination Act

Action Requested:
We urge you to call your U.S. senator and urge him or her to oppose ENDA: H.R. 3685, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007. It is not necessary to identify yourself as a homeschooler. Your message can be as simple as, “Please oppose ENDA H.R. 3685, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007. Congress should not force private employers to hire individuals whose sexual orientation violates their beliefs.”

You can reach your U.S. senator by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, or by using our Legislative Toolbox.

Background:
Congress is considering a bill that would forbid employers from refusing to hire people based on their “sexual orientation.”

The U.S. House Education and Labor Committee held a full committee markup for H.R. 3685, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007 (ENDA), Tuesday, October 18, at 10 a.m. ENDA was approved by the committee to be sent to the full House of Representatives.

ENDA would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This would mean that a business or organization with more than 15 employees would be barred by federal law from refusing to hire a person because of the person’s sexual orientation.

ENDA contains an exemption for “religious organizations,” which reads simply, “this Act shall not apply to a religious organization.” However, the definition for a religious organization is extremely vague. It does not use the existing language that exempts religious organizations that is currently in federal law. This could lead to judges deciding whether or not an organization is a “religious organization” based on differing state laws. At the very least, this would result in expensive lawsuits. At worst, it could be used to force religious organizations such as HSLDA, large homeschool support groups or co-ops that employ individuals, Christian publishing companies or bookstores, and other organizations to hire individuals whose sexual orientation violates the organization’s beliefs.

Furthermore, this legislation could open the door to more federal laws which would restrict the freedom of employers and possibly even organizations and churches, from deciding whom they will hire.

Legislative History:

ENDA was first introduced in 1997. Previous bills never made much progress in Congress.

ENDA was introduced earlier this year in the House of Representatives as H.R. 2015 and a committee hearing was held for the bill. H.R. 2015 contained a very narrow religious exemption that would have effectively only exempted churches. Christian organizations or religious organizations such as HSLDA, large homeschool support groups or co-ops that employ individuals, private religious schools and colleges, and other religious entities would have likely been subject to ENDA and could have been forced to hire an individual whose sexual orientation violates the organization’s beliefs.

Faced with mounting criticism, the bill’s supporters introduced a new ENDA bill, H.R. 3685. This bill attempted to minimize criticism by leaving out language from the previous ENDA bill which would have included the term “gender identity” in the bill’s protections. H.R. 3685 also included language attempting to broaden the religious exemption in an attempt to minimize criticism about the previous bill that it could be used to force religious organizations to hire individuals whose sexual orientation violated the organization’s beliefs. However, as discussed above, the religious exemption is still too vague.

At the House Committee on Education and Labor markup that was held on Thursday, October 18, several congressmen warned about the dangers that ENDA posed to religious organizations. They warned that ENDA could force these religious employers to have to hire people whose sexual orientation is opposed by the organization's beliefs and mission objectives. Several amendments were introduced to protect the religious freedom of employers and to ensure that ENDA would not result in lawsuits against religious organizations. However, all of these amendments were defeated.

On November 7, 2007 ENDA was adopted by the United States House of Representatives for the first time despite repeated votes starting in 1997.

Status:

9/27/2007Introduced and referred to House Education and Labor
10/18/2007Full Committee markup scheduled at 10 a.m.
10/18/2007Committee Consideration and Mark-up Session Held.
10/18/2007Ordered to be Reported by the Yeas and Nays: 27-21.
11/8/2007Vote by the full U.S. House of Representatives Yeas and Nays: 235-184 (Roll no. 1057) passed.

Sponsor:
Rep. Barney Frank (MA)

Cosponsors: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:HR03685:@@@P (9)

Bill Summary and Status: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h.r.03685:

HSLDA's Position:
Oppose.

 Other Resources

Oppose H.R. 3685, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

Executive Office Statement of Adminstration Policy Regarding ENDA (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)